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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1995 Aug;152(2):721-4.

The effect of posture on airway caliber with the sleep-apnea/hypopnea syndrome.

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Department of Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.


Snoring and sleep apnea are more common in the supine than seated position. We therefore studied the effect of posture on upper-airway caliber in normal subjects, snorers, and subjects with the sleep-apnea/hypopnea syndrome (SAHS). We measured upper-airway cross-sectional area by acoustic reflection in 110 SAHS patients (apnea/hypopnea index [AHI] > 15), 70 snorers without SAHS (AHI < 15), and 40 male controls matched for body-mass index (BMI) to the 40 SAHS patients. SAHS patients in the seated position had smaller upper-airway areas at the orophyngeal junction (OPJ) than either the snorers (p < 0.01) or the normal subjects (p < 0.02), but there were no differences between groups in airway cross-sectional areas in the supine or lateral recumbent positions. SAHS patients had significantly smaller decreases in OPJ area from the seated to either the supine (p < 0.001) or lateral recumbent (p < 0.001) positions than did the snorers. SAHS patients also had smaller (p < 0.05) decreases in OPJ area upon lying down than did the BMI-matched normal subjects. These data are compatible with SAHS patients defending their upper airway more upon lying down than do snorers or normal subjects.

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